From Harper’s Weekly Review:
Vladimir Putin complained that Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, and Rachmaninov were victims of cancel culture.
I don’t know what what Putin thinks he’s getting at about Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. Shostakovich, however, is a different matter — except what happened to him was caused not by any Western power but by a one-man Soviet cancel culture: Stalin. You know, the murderous despot Putin wants to be like.
In the 1930s, when Shostakovich’s stunning opera, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, was first performed in Leningrad, Stalin, a serious music maven (sarcasm), attended with several of his more notorious associates (one of them was Molotov; you know, the Cocktail), and walked out without speaking to anyone, an ominous sign.
A few days later, Pravda, the national rag, published a condemnation of the opera. Subsequently, a national campaign to denounce the opera and, explicitly, Shostakovich himself, erupted. Until Stalin died in 1953, Shostakovich lived and worked under a scary Stalinist fatwa.
I suppose it’s significant that Putin is muddling up things that happened or didn’t in the 19th and 20th centuries, not today. I don’t believe western cultural organizations have canceled performances of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, unless, along with every other composer from the past five centuries of music, they were canceled because of COVID-19.
I’m beginning to suspect Putin doesn’t know what he’s talking about.